COVID-19: A thrust towards home-schooling in Kenya
Education has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. The pandemic has imposed a massive shift to online and home learning which is a relatively new phenomena for most of the world’s over 1.57 billion learners and over 63 million educators forced out of learning institutions. Kenya’s over 15.25 million learners are among those that had their studies abruptly disrupted over this period.
In response to the closure of educational institutions across the globe, UNESCO recommended the use of distance and home learning programmes supported by open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers could use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education. In response, countries such as Kenya found themselves resorting to multiple modes of distance delivery of content to learners. Some of the media embraced included online platforms, like Moodle, television, mobile phones, radio and email among others. However, while a major shift for Kenya, the move to embrace home schooling and distance learning also drew sharp criticism from different stakeholders such as parents, teachers, and students for not being inclusive. For example, a lack of electricity and internet connectivity among rural populations and a lack of electronic devices, such as digital mobile phones, radio and/or television, in most households were raised as factors that widened the gap in access to education between the underprivileged majority and the privileged minority.
Inclusivity and equity in education brings UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 to the fore. UN SDG 4 built upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the goal of Education for All (EFA), which aimed to ensure basic education for all children while promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. The sudden outbreak and spread of COVID-19 has threatened to derail progress in this regard, as it brought the education sector to a standstill. ‘Home-schooling’ was hurriedly and haphazardly introduced to learners and parents who had little choice but to adapt, which could explain the resistance and litany of complaints raised by parents in Kenya and other education stakeholders.
However, this paper seeks to argue that Kenya can benefit significantly from home schooling and is an educational path that should be fostered going forward.
What is home schooling and why is it beneficial?
Home schooling is the education of school-aged children at home rather than at school. Although the concept of home schooling is not a new phenomenon in education, it has received minimal to no attention within the African context. In some cases, home-schooling and e-learning are used interchangeably. However, although there is a narrow difference between the two concepts, they are not one and the same. In e-learning, instruction is delivered online without parental involvement while in home-schooling, children learn at home with the supervision of their parents. In its strictest sense, home-schooling is broader and may in some instances encompass e-learning, particularly where a blended home-schooling is in range.
There are several other misconceptions that people have about home-schooling. Some think that it is against the establishment of traditional schools while others think that it a religious revolt. However, a close interaction with existing literature on home-schooling and review of cases where it has been operationalised, such as South Africa, show that the concept is often a superior way to educate children while guaranteeing their mental and emotional safety. This makes home-schooling a better option during and after a distressful experience such as pandemics. Considering the heavy emotional and psychological burden that COVID-19 has imposed on society, learners and educators included, fitting into previous routine practices may not be smooth after the pandemic.
"Although the concept of home schooling is not a new phenomenon in education, it has received minimal to no attention within the African context."
As a growing phenomenon in Africa, home-schooling is gradually gaining momentum in most African countries. For example, Zambia has a home-school academy in Lusaka while the law in Rwanda seems to make provision for home-schooling. Whereas other African countries such as Ghana, Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya, among others, lack legal statuses for home-schooling, it nevertheless remains a growing educational option.
This means that legislation and support in a country like Kenya can yield success stories about home-schooling. A lot can be borrowed from South Africa which is considered by many as the frontrunner in home-schooling in Africa and a legitimate schooling option.
It is imperative to acknowledge that there are a number of challenges associated with home-schooling. For instance, many scholars highlight limited intercourse between the learner and other people outside the home environment, weakened team-work - especially in cases where there is one child in the home -, diminished leadership skills, limited interaction with peers and a reduced emphasis on the spirit of competition as threats to home-schooling.
To address these concerns, the government, through the Ministry of Education, should standardise the activities pertaining to home-schooling in order to ensure that there is uniformity across the board. If blended home-schooling is embraced, then opportunities for leadership can be inculcated through proper coordination. For example, a leaf could be borrowed from the ‘Nyumba Kumi’ concept where a number of households with children could have designated leadership roles rotated among them. Besides leadership, this concept can also address the challenges of no teamwork or no interaction.
Home-schooling also guarantees parental involvement in the education of their children in a more significant way. Home-schooling has been described as the most humane way to educate youngsters. While acknowledging that the concept may not be the right choice for every child/family in Kenya where most households have no access to electricity and internet, it remains an important and effective option for a population of learners during pandemics such as COVID-19 and any that may strike in future.
Although most Kenyans associate formal education with institutionalised schooling, if systematically rolled out and proper awareness made, home-schooling can be a good alternative to guarantee continued education during and after COVID-19. This is the impetus for this paper: To call on educational stakeholders to innovatively design solutions for preventing and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on education in Kenya. Home-schooling would be a very cost-effective solution to the dilemma facing inclusion and access to education due the prevailing pandemic.
Considering that home-schooling has worked elsewhere, then it should work in Kenya and in Africa as a whole. This calls for a deliberate concerted effort by all educational stakeholders to engage in serious reflections about disaster management. The COVID-19 is as disastrous as any other pandemic. Therefore, in the spirit of lifelong learning, lessons can be picked from the current situation with an aim of re-imaging the future. Education, like all other sectors requires to be re-thought in terms of pedagogy and the learning process. This would cushion learners from adverse effects of the pandemic in the post COVID-19.
(Main image by Peace Corps licensed under CC 2.0)
The opinions expressed in these article(s) are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of SAIIA or CIGI.